“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” Mark Twain made that observation years ago when jokingly offering his philosophy on what it takes to stay healthy. Obviously, his expectations for lasting health were not too high.
Today we are treated to a similar message through various sources that a disease-free life is practically impossible to maintain without the intervention of diets, drugs, exercise routines, therapies, and more. With the constant barrage in media to “do this to stay healthy,” we are accepting a subtle, but relentless sub-message that illness is inevitable.
What are your health prospects? It is an important question. If living by a “Murphy’s Law” mentality you are essentially portending anything that can go wrong will happen to you at some point in time adding to a life full of doubt and anxiety.
On the other hand, giving your consent to living a life grounded by spiritual, guiding principles that supersede health uncertainties empowers you to be the expression of wellness. Read more…
Remember the Royal Canadian Air Force 5BX (Five Basic Exercises) Plan? Hugely popular in the 60’s, it was simple to do, but boring as heck. I remember my dad struggling with sit-ups and tediously running in place. It wasn’t long before his exercise regimen was history. To stick with an exercise routine, one needs a compelling reason for doing it.
I was not old enough at the time to think to ask dad why he wanted to exercise. He got plenty of activity running the family hardware business. Maybe he was doing it because his friends were into it. Perhaps he was concerned about his health. Finding answers to the question “Why am I exercising?” fortifies the endurance needed in the fight to be fit.
Along with the sheer enjoyment, some people exercise to work off excessive weight, relieve stress, improve athleticism, and/or train for sporting competition. If someone is exercising for his or her health, though, something more than mere muscle-flexing is needed. Consistent well-being includes living an active life with a spiritual focus.
Seems the buzz around the medical water cooler these days is integrative medicine.
Think of you and your integrative medicine physician working “as partners to engage body, mind and spirit in attaining and maintaining optimal health.” This is how physicians at University of Cincinnati Health describe integrative medicine on their website, an approach to health care that patients are requesting and health professionals are seeing as beneficial.
“Complementary” and “alternative” medicine (CAM) has been part of the health lexicon for a generation or more. The terms have been used to describe those therapies considered outside the traditional scope of medicine or at least beyond the doctor’s comfort zone. That is changing.
What is being integrated? Complimentary practices such as mindfulness and spirituality, health and wellness coaching, yoga therapy, massage therapy, stress reduction techniques and acupuncture, treatments considered evidenced-based practices according to UC Center for Integrative Health and Wellness.
Why are they being integrated into the medical regimen now? “It’s about time that medicine put mind and body together and began to treat people in all dimensions of their needs,” says Thomas Boat, MD, Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He was addressing a group at the launch of the UC Health Integrative Medicine clinic, part of the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness which incorporates three distinct missions: education, research, and clinical care.
“The word ‘Integrative’ medicine is particularly, I think, meaningful to me because it does signify that we have finally arrived at the point where we understand that all dimensions of people’s existence and people’s experiences really do need to be dealt with,” Boat said.
“If you look at the number of people who are engaged one way or another with integrative medicine, it’s a huge part of health care,” Dr. Boat told me later.
Dr. Sian Cotton, executive director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Integrative Health and Wellness agrees. She is responsible for bringing Integrative medicine to UC, a project begun in 2009.
Cotton sees part of her responsibilities as educating “both faculty and students about what is the evidence out there, the good and the bad, so we know what people are doing and what works and doesn’t work.”
The growing body of research pointing to successful uses of integrative practices in health recovery and preservation as well as the increasing demand for these approaches by the public has helped to propel the movement. Dr. Cotton reports that UC Center of Integrative Health and Wellness is part of a growing number of academic health institutions that currently totals 56 and are a part of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. The organization has established basic core values:
Every individual has the right to healthcare that:
Provides dignity and respect
Includes a caring therapeutic relationship
Honors the whole person – mind, body, and spirit
Recognizes the innate capacity to heal
Offers choices for complementary and conventional therapies
Like Dr. Boat, Dr. Cotton appreciates the significance of all human dimensions being tapped in order to expedite healing. To her thinking, “when you look at holistic health care and you look at physical health and you look at mental and emotional health and social health and when you look at spiritual health…people get it. We are of a spiritual nature, a religious nature, we are very spiritual,” Dr. Cotton told me.
Curiously, the spiritual/mindful component has been absent from traditional medical practices with an emphasis solely on physicality. Wisdom books like the Bible often point to an active spiritual life that “will make you healthy, and you will feel strong.” (Proverbs 3:8) Certainly, health and wellbeing have been a key part of many spiritual practices over the centuries. And while not singling out any specific spiritual practice, an integrative approach that recognizes the healthful influence of spirituality and mindfulness appears to be gaining wider acceptance.
According to Dr. Cotton her colleagues are embracing much of the integrative philosophy, and medical students participating in integrative classes are being put on the “national landscape” setting “them up to be on par with the students around the country.”
And as health professionals are exposed to the fundamentals of integrative medicine and get more familiar with its application, it will be interesting to document our “innate capacity to heal.” As Dr. Boat put it, integrative medicine, “It’s here to stay.”
A sad statistic: Ohio ranks as the 46th happiest state in the U.S. according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Sure, the weather isn’t always that sunny, but 46th? Actually, the survey bases its results on six criteria, including physical health, work environment, and behaviors. The weather doesn’t factor in. Hawaiians are reportedly the happiest bunch.
Is happiness that important? Definitely. Happiness is directly linked to well-being. Get this opening comment in an article published in Science Daily, “A review of more than 160 studies of human and animal subjects has found ‘clear and compelling evidence’ that – all else being equal – happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers.”
The post references a study in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being. Its lead author, University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener, is quoted. “I was almost shocked and certainly surprised to see the consistency of the data. All of these different kinds of studies point to the same conclusion: that health and then longevity in turn are influenced by our mood states.”
The connections between happiness and a sense of well-being seem obvious. But those links have practical applications. The study has this to say: “Our overall conclusion is that the evidence for the influence of subjective well-being on health and all-cause mortality is clear and compelling… If high subjective well-being adds 4 to 10 years to life compared to low subjective well-being, this is an outcome worthy of national attention. When one considers that the years lived of a happy person are more enjoyable and experienced with better health, the importance of the subjective well-being and health findings is even more compelling.”
Americans appear to be accepting the influence they have over their own health. Fitness is one of those avenues. The Arnold Sports Festival is a case in point. The yearly event just concluded in Columbus. With 18,000 athletes from around the world competing in various sports, the event features more competitors than this year’s Summer Olympics in London, England.
Jim Lorimer, Chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee for Women’s Athletics during the 1960’s is the principle founder of the Arnold Sports Festival. Lorimer and the festival’s namesake, Arnold Schwarzenegger have been friends since they first worked together in 1970.
They got together at the opening of the festival to talk and answer questions. When asked to describe what he most admired about his friend, Lorimer didn’t hesitate. It was Schwarzenegger’s capacity for enjoyment he appreciated the most. It isn’t his physique or power or wealth. It is the way Arnold defines himself in terms of joy.
Comments like those along with published studies connecting happiness and health are compelling arguments for continuing to look at the link between our attitudes and our well-being. It’s not just about the body…there is mental component, a spiritual fitness.
Writing about the connections between health, thought, and spirituality